I watched 3 movie versions based on this book, 1980 version with Wang Yue, 1982 version with Kuo Chui, and the 1993 version with Yuen Biao. The 1982 version is closer to the book, the 1980 version has different twists, and the 1993 version makes me think whether it was based on the same book :-)
Chin Yung books are always interesting to read. Reading this one, I again was reminded why he had become the most successful wuxia writers all the time.
The book started with the story of Hau Tiau Cong, a scholar, and his servant, who were attacked by robbers. They were saved by farmers - or swordsmen in disguise - who were taking care of the only son of General Wang Cong Hoan. General Wang Cong Hoan had been very loyal to the country, but the emperor sentenced him to death because of a false accusation. Chased by the royal army, the general's son, Wan Sin Cie, was taken to a teacher from Hoa San Clan.
Years passed. Wan Sin Cie was now a young man and very skillful in martial arts. He found the legacy of the Golden Snake swordsman in a hidden cave in Hoa San. In his next journey, he met the Golden Snake swordsman's wife and daughter. He learned the tragic story of the Golden Snake swordsman. He also fell in love with the Golden Snake swordsman's daughter, who was -unfortunately - a very jealous girl. That time was a turmoil - it was the end of Ming dynasty - and Wan Sin Cie's girlfriend a couple of times ranaway, made him busy to find her back.
Wan Sin Cie also found a treasure map, another legacy from the Golden Snake swordsman. He used the money to help the rebels against the emperor. In his journey, Wan Sin Cie also met with the Princess -in disguise. This princess, who lost an arm when the dynasty fell, cut off by her own father, appeared again in other Chin Yung book: The Deer and The Cauldron.
The rebel story also did not end happily here. Wan Sin Cie's sworn brother, like his father, was convicted of treason and executed. On the grave of his sworn brother, Wan Sin Cie met again with Hau Tiau Cong, the scholar he met when he was a little boy. So the character Hau Tiau Cong was used for the opening and ending of this book. Disappointed with the way how the country was run, Wan Sin Cie brought his friends to the South Sea, to seclusion.